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That time Jason Bourne went to a fake CES

Being a technology journalist is exactly like being an action hero, especially when superspy Jason Bourne hits a tech trade show in his latest movie.


This article reveals one of the settings of the movie "Jason Bourne", but does not give away any of the actual story.

In many ways, being a technology journalist is exactly like being an action hero. If you don't believe me, look at "Jason Bourne", where the hard-hitting assassin of the title heads into a place every tech hack feels at home: a technology trade show.

"Jason Bourne," which opened Friday in the US, sees Matt Damon's amnesiac assassin once again entangled in spy shenanigans. We won't give you any spoilers of the actual plot, except to say that this time round, the conspiracy involves a CIA boss played by Tommy Lee Jones and a Silicon Valley rich kid played by Riz Ahmed. During the film, Bourne follows the two men to Las Vegas where they are scheduled to appear on stage together at a made-up technology conference called "ExpoCon".

I couldn't help laughing at that, because there really is a technology trade show in Las Vegas, and I've been many times. It's called the Consumer Technology Show, better known as CES. Each January, pretty much the entire CNET team joins other tech journalists, manufacturers, random celebrities and general industry types from all over the world who descend on the Las Vegas Convention Center to see the coming year's gadgets.

CES is huge. One thing the movie gets right at its fake trade show is the crowd: CES attracts 170,000 people, but luckily Bourne is super-skilled at walking quickly through throngs of people. I wish I knew his technique, having tried to fight my way from one press conference to another while every every single one of those 170,000 people had apparently decided to stand right in my way.

Matt Damon and Julia Stiles in "Jason Bourne".

Those aren't the only obstacles you face at CES. Bourne is a master at adopting different identities, but that doesn't explain how he gets past all the damn queues.

In the movie, Bourne follows his targets into a crowded exhibition hall where startups and small gadget makers are showing off their wares. Now, we know Bourne is a master at blending into any situation, but he'd have to be flippin' invisible to be that close to a startup stall and not get sucked into a 10-minute pitch from the company's CEO. Who is also the CTO, and who answers the phone.

While at the exhibition, our hero deftly swipes a tracking device from an exhibitor's table. It's funny that such gadgets, which were once the stuff of Q Branch fantasy, are now very real. Which leads me to the most unrealistic thing in the movie: not the bit where Bourne rides a motorbike down some stairs or jumps a sports car over an armoured personnel carrier, but the bit where his gadgets work immediately without spending an hour trying to connect to the Wi-Fi. Ah, the magic of Hollywood!

Now Bourne may be a master of survival techniques, but here's the true master of surviving technology trade shows:

Now playing: Watch this: How to survive a tech show